Over the last 10 years or so, I have noticed that more and more kids have challenging behaviours. They don’t display these behaviours all the time, but when then they decide to be oppositional they really and truly go for it. The old school ‘angry dominant’ approach where one parent yells, threatens and gives consequence after consequence only makes these behaviours worse.
I am an example of this… I went away last weekend to visit my eldest son. My youngest son, Jack wanted to come with me but I told him I wanted to give Ash all my attention while I was there. The night I came home Jack was nasty, rude and oppositional. I was worn out from a long train ride so I told him over and over I was ‘disappointed in his behaviour’. He kept going so I yelled at him, threatened to take his book, ipad and Lego, (which I did) but he just kept going. I gave up, went to bed and let my lovely husband handle it.
In the morning I apologised profusely and all seemed okay. Last night I got an email from a parent who asked for help with her daughter’s challenging behaviours. I sat down, asked my Sparky for advice and wrote an email. While reading it through before sending, I thought, ‘Wow, I should have done that last night with Jack.’ It’s much easier to be calm and centred when it isn’t your kid! Anyway here’s how to manage your kid’s challenging behaviours…
Your kid feels bad because their body needs something, they are thinking Shady thoughts or both! So let’s start with the body first…
- Body – Is your kids body okay?
Are they getting enough sleep? Water? Food?
Sleep – Most kids don’t get enough sleep. If your kid is waking up grumpy and disagreeable than they need more sleep. Kids are supposed to wake up happy and alert! Research says that 7-12 yr olds need between 10 and 11 hrs of sleep and teenagers need 8-9 hrs per night.
Water – Kids need to drink around 1.5 litres a day – hardly any kid drinks that much!
Food – Kids chuck tantrums when they are hungry!
Help your kid look after their body and then move onto their thoughts.
- Thoughts – What is your kid thinking?
What is their Shady saying to them to make them behave like that?
Instead of reacting on autopilot and yelling, threatening and handing out consequences (like I did!), try moving closer to them and asking… “What’s wrong?”
As in “I want you to tell me every single thing you are worried, angry or sad about.”
Listen to everything they say without interrupting them, judging them, or giving them a solution. When they pause say, “What else?” Encourage them to keep going no matter how silly, stupid, selfish or nuts they sound. Your job is simply to listen and give them a cuddle if they are up for it. Don’t give them advice (that’s Sparky’s job)!
If they start crying, yelling or screaming, let them go for it, but remind them it is not okay to hurt themselves, hurt other people (with words or actions) or wreck stuff that can’t get wrecked.
If they won’t do this step because they don’t want to say it out loud or share it with you, get them to go to their room and do it on their own or better still write it all down. Encourage them to write down everything they are angry, worried or sad about, all of it, no holding back. (Tell them no one else will read it unless they want them to).
- Let go – When it is all out get them to let their worries, anger and sadness go.
Suggest they throw the piece of paper in the bin or more spectacularly – burn it! Or if they said it out loud get them to imagine that everything they just said and expressed is in a bag that they give to Sparky and then get them to imagine Sparky throwing it away. If they don’t want to let it go just yet, get them to put it aside for now, somewhere safe where Sparky can look after it. (If they wrote it on paper, they could hide the paper so they don’t have to worry about someone else reading it.) Then…
- Sparky – Get them to ask Sparky “What now?”
As in what do I need to think and believe now? Sparky will give your kid loving thoughts to believe instead of the fearful ones. Get them to imagine putting Sparky’s love and good advice inside them to fill up the hole their shady stuff just left.
If they say they can’t hear Sparky then ask your Sparky and tell them what yours says, it will probably be something like… “I love you. I believe in you. You are important and irreplaceable.”
Then give them a big cuddle and tell them you love them no matter what!
Other suggestions that may help…
* If you have a partner it is a good idea to tag team when you are managing your child’s challenging behaviours. When one of you starts to lose patience or get Shady, swap over.
* If you get into the habit of asking, “What’s wrong?” when your child starts to lose it and then you take the time to stop and listen to your child, you will save a lot of time, arguing, misunderstanding and opposition. Our kids out of control behaviour is often a cry for help. (Jack’s was a cry for assurance that I loved him despite going away without him to give his brother some love and attention.)
* If your usual nighttime routine involves your child ‘losing it’, try having dinner earlier if possible and then all of you go to bed earlier. It is really, really hard to be a patient and loving parent when everyone is exhausted from their day, so if it is all too hard go to bed and start again tomorrow!